Page last updated at 19:14 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

NI Secretary Woodward: No Stormont suspension

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Shaun Woodward
Shaun Woodward said the Assembly would not be suspended

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Shaun Woodward has ruled out suspending the NI Assembly if the current problems cannot be sorted out by the New Year.

He said after the St Andrews Agreement, he did not have the power to do so and was not considering creating the power.

The DUP and Sinn Fein have been arguing for months over the transfer of justice powers from London to Belfast.

Mr Woodward and Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin discussed the current hiatus in Stormont politics in Dublin.

They played down the possibility of a St Andrews-style "hothouse" talks session to try to resolve the outstanding issues and said they hoped the parties could sort it out themselves.

"We believe the political parties both want to do this, it's a question of providing as much help as we can with the framework but ultimately this must be a matter for them," Mr Woodward said.

Mr Martin said it was not a time for recrimination or blame, but to "focus on the issues".

The British and Irish prime ministers are to hold talks later this week to discuss the problems.

Sinn Fein has said the assembly faces a "full-blown crisis" if the powers are not devolved by Christmas, however, DUP leader Peter Robinson has rejected their calls for the deadline to be met.

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